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They’ve always been important, but now there’s TWO reasons for it;
- Good links are still good for rankings
- Bad links destroy rankings!
Link Building, or acquiring incoming links, particularly 1-way incoming links (backlinks) to your site from high-quality, trusted sites is still of great importance. There are many important factors in search engine rankings, but the consensus of opinion is that links can make or break your website.
Google and other major SE’s take the view that;
- Each back-link to your website is a vote of confidence
- The more important the website that links to you is, the more value the vote has
- Sites with related content that link to you give the highest value
- Links from pages with related content give good vote value
- The keywords in the back-link Anchor Text (Link Title) text are accurate indicators of your site’s content
Google also takes the view that low quality links with over-optimised link titles is a bad thing, and they will penalize you severely for it.
Natural Link Profiles are Crucial
In the real world, a website’s natural or organic link profile conforms pretty much to the sites within the same genre or industry group. If your site stands head and shoulder above the rest due to efforts to increase inbound link counts and manipulate the keywords anchor texts, you have a problem.
The perceived value of your site (and the pages within it) – is loosely expressed as Page Rank – the higher the PR is, the more important it is within its particular theme. The problem with PR is that the only data we can see is both historical (4-5 months out of date) and deliberately blurred to disguise Google’s real assessment values.
Links outward from your site:
Each link you place outwards effectively subtracts one vote from your accumulated total. Links to “bad neighbourhoods” can really hurt you
Take care who you link to!
If you want to link to a selection of sites that might provide useful information to your visitors, adding a NOFOLLOW tag to the links on the page stops your Page Rank bleeding away. Alternatively, add a “REL=NOFOLLOW” to individual hyperlinks – this indicates to the SE’s that the link should not be counted as a vote of confidence from you.
It is not necessary to make submissions to spider-based search engines such as Google, Yahoo and MSN etc. In fact, most NZ SEO experts do not recommend it. Those search engines will quickly find and index new sites from links pointing to them from other sites – in fact, in Google’s case, if there are no links to your site they probably won’t bother to index it, whatever you do…
Should You Build Links At All?
Very careful assessment of your current incoming link portfolio is required before you to do any link building for your website. The keywords in Anchor Text (link titles) in links to your site, the overall link quality and relevance, and anchor-text optimisation are still among the more important factors in search engine ranking algorithms. However, getting it wrong means almost certain punishment!
Particularly useful are backlinks from “trusted” sites from a similar genre of sites to your own. These must be “editorially placed” links added by a human reviewer who decided that a link to your site ewas aof value to his visitors.
However, of equal or greater importance is the way Anchor Text is optimised. Even if the sites you have links from are trusted, too many exact-match keyword phrases in Anchor Text may still incur an algorithmic penalty!
What About Reciprocal Links?
Were of minimal value and now count against you as an unnatural and manipulative linking practice! Reciprocal links were once a natural part of link growth, but are now likely to hurt you, based on recent comments by Google’s web spam team!
The only links value comes from 1-way incoming links from trusted sites in a similar genre.
For a new site it’s really helpful to get a handful of good links to start developing the site’s “Page Rank” at the earliest possible time. In most cases (with a new site) you end up consigned into what was once referred to as the Google “sandbox” – a probationary period, where you must earn trust before rankings accrue. The sooner you start working your way out of THAT, the better! 🙂
Basically, the main search engines (Google/Bing) see it this way; if no one at all links to you, you may not be worth indexing, regardless of how well your content is optimised.
Gaining a couple of high quality links is the initial goal – focus on quality, because quantity will cripple you before you get started. Non-reciprocal links – the sort of links that would occur if someone visited your site, thought it was an excellent resource and created link to it of their own volition. The words that appear in;
The Title or anchor text: should be Business name, brand or domain name
The surrounding Description text
…are what the SE’s will use to categorise your site, and this should be supported by the content of the site, through effective content optimisation.
Are Keywords in Anchor Text Still Important?
Yes, but extreme caution is advisable. Its more important to ensure that your overall link profile remains “natural” and contains a dominant mix of domain name and/or business name and your “brand” in the anchor text. A few “exact-match” competitive keyword phrases in incoming link anchor text can trigger a penalty.
How to Build Links Safely
In generating links, you should use brand + keyword/s that the search engines would naturally associate with your site. Specifically;
- Domain Name, Brand and/or Business Name should make up the bulk of link text
- Brand + a keyword + synonyms are useful
- Brand + non-targeted anchor text is useful
- Editorial link text that a human editor writes is useful
- Reciprocal links are now regarded a “manipulative”
- Avoid forum / blog signatures with links
- Avoid article marketing
- Avoid press releases unless to high-end resources and containing genuine news
- Avoid links from unrelated countries and genres
- Avoid EVERY link-building scheme anyone tries to sell you. As Google identifies such schemes, penalties are built into the Penguin algorithm. Once you are exposed, penalties can demolish your ranking take +70% of your traffic away overnight!
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